Mar
29
2021
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EQT Ventures promotes Laura Yao to partner; hires Anne Raimondi as operating partner

EQT Ventures, an investment firm based in Europe that has raised more than €1.2 billion ($1.4 billion USD), announced that it has promoted Laura Yao to partner. At the same time, the firm announced it recently hired Anne Raimondi, former SVP of Operations at Zendesk, as operating partner.

The company is based in Stockholm, with offices in London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Luxembourg. Yao is based in the U.S. office in San Francisco, where she has been working for three years prior to her recent promotion to partner. She says that the company tends to hire people with operator experience because they relate well to the founders of startups in which they invest.

“Our goal is to partner with the most ambitious and boldest founders in Europe and the U.S. and kind of be the investors that we all wish we’d had when we were on the other side of the table,” Yao told me.

Yao’s background includes co-founding a startup called The PhenomList in 2011.

While she is responsible for looking for new investments, Raimondi works with the existing portfolio of companies, particularly B2B SaaS companies, helping them with practical aspects of building a startup like go-to-market strategy, organizational design, hiring executives and other components of company building.

“I joined earlier this year as an operating partner, so I’m not on the investing side but actually focused on working with existing portfolio company founders as they grow and scale,” Raimondi said.

Unfortunately, female partners like Yao and Raimondi remain a rarity in most venture firms with a Crunchbase report from last April finding that just 3% of investors are women, and that over two-thirds of firms don’t have a single woman as a partner.

EQT has a 50/50 male to female employee ratio, although the partners were all male until Yao was promoted and Raimondi hired. That makes two of six as the company attempts to make the investment team reflect the rest of the company and the population at large.

Part of Raimondi’s job is talking to startups about building diverse and equitable organizations and she and Yao know the company needs to model that. She says that thriving startups understand on the product side that to build a successful product, they start with a hypothesis, then develop targets and metrics to test, learn and then iterate.

She says that they need to do the same thing to build a diverse and inclusive company. That starts with defining what diversity and inclusion looks like and setting up metrics to measure their progress.

“You evaluate [your diversity goals] and hold [the company] accountable to what you’ve signed up for. If you don’t meet them, [you look at] what can you do to improve them. Then you look at how you keep iterating, and then constantly measuring the employee experience across many dimensions, including not only diversity, but the important part of belonging,” Raimondi said.

Both women say their company does a good job at this, and their hiring/promotion proves that. Yao says that the organization as a whole has created a comfortable and inclusive culture. “It’s very collaborative and egalitarian. Anyone can say whatever’s on their mind. It’s very non-hierarchical and a comfortable place for a woman to work. I felt immediately welcomed and that my ideas were welcome immediately,” she said.

The company portfolio includes startups in the U.S. and Europe and the firm sees itself as a bridge between the two locations. Among the companies EQT has invested in include bug bounty startup HackerOne, website building technology Netlify and quantum computing startup Seeqc.

Early Stage is the premier “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product-market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion. Use code “TCARTICLE” at checkout to get 20% off tickets right here.

Mar
24
2021
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Why Adam Selipsky was the logical choice to run AWS

When AWS CEO Andy Jassy announced in an email to employees yesterday that Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky was returning to run AWS, it was probably not the choice most considered. But to the industry watchers we spoke to over the last couple of days, it was a move that made absolute sense once you thought about it.

Gartner analyst Ed Anderson says that the cultural fit was probably too good for Jassy to pass up. Selipsky spent 11 years helping build the division. It was someone he knew well and had worked side by side with for over a decade. He could slide into the new role and be trusted to continue building the lucrative division.

Anderson says that even though the size and scope of AWS has changed dramatically since Selipsky left in 2016 when the company closed the year on a $16 billion run rate, he says that the organization’s cultural dynamics haven’t changed all that much.

“Success in this role requires a deep understanding of the Amazon/AWS culture in addition to a vision for AWS’s future growth. Adam already knows the AWS culture from his previous time at AWS. Yes, AWS was a smaller business when he left, but the fundamental structure and strategy was in place and the culture hasn’t notably evolved since then,” Anderson told me.

Matt McIlwain, managing director at Madrona Venture Group, says the experience Selipsky had after he left AWS will prove invaluable when he returns.

“Adam transformed Tableau from a desktop, licensed software company to a cloud, subscription software company that thrived. As the leader of AWS, Adam is returning to a culture he helped grow as the sales and marketing leader that brought AWS to prominence and broke through from startup customers to become the leading enterprise solution for public cloud,” he said.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research, says that Selipsky’s business experience gave him the edge over other candidates. “His business acumen won out over [internal candidates] Matt Garmin and Peter DeSantis. Insight on how Salesforce works may be helpful and valued as well,” Mueller pointed out.

As for leaving Tableau and with it Salesforce, the company that purchased it for $15.7 billion in 2019, Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, believes that it was only a matter of time before some of these acquired company CEOs left to do other things. In fact, he’s surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

“Given Salesforce’s growing stable of top notch CEOs accumulated by way of a slew of high-profile acquisitions, you really can’t expect them all to stay forever, and given Adam Selipsky’s tenure at AWS before becoming Tableau’s CEO, this move makes a whole lot of sense. Amazon brings back one of their own, and he is also a wildly successful CEO in his own right,” Leary said.

While the consensus is that Selipsky is a good choice, he is going to have awfully big shoes to fill. The fact is that division is continuing to grow like a large company currently on a run rate of over $50 billion. With a track record like that to follow, and Jassy still close at hand, Selipsky has to simply continue letting the unit do its thing while putting his own unique stamp on it.

Any kind of change is disconcerting though, and it will be up to him to put customers and employees at ease and plow ahead into the future. Same mission. New boss.

Mar
23
2021
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Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky is returning to AWS to replace Andy Jassy as CEO

When Amazon announced last month that Jeff Bezos was moving into the executive chairman role, and AWS CEO Andy Jassy would be taking over the entire Amazon operation, speculation began about who would replace Jassy.

People considered a number of internal candidates viable, such as Peter DeSantis, vice president of global infrastructure at AWS and Matt Garman, who is vice president of sales and marketing. Not many would have chosen Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky, but sure enough he is returning home to run the division he left in 2016.

In an email to employees, Jassy wasted no time getting to the point that Selipsky was his choice, saying that the former employee helped launch the division when they hired him in 2005, then spent 11 years helping Jassy build the unit before taking the job at Tableau. Through that lens, the choice makes perfect sense.

“Adam brings strong judgment, customer obsession, team building, demand generation, and CEO experience to an already very strong AWS leadership team. And, having been in such a senior role at AWS for 11 years, he knows our culture and business well,” Jassy wrote in the email.

Jassy has run AWS since its earliest days, taking it from humble beginnings as a kind of internal experiment on running a storage web service to building a mega division currently on a $51 billion run rate. It is that juggernaut that will be Selipsky’s to run, but he seems well-suited for the job.

He is a seasoned executive, and while he’s been away from AWS since before it really began to grow into a huge operation, he should still understand the culture well enough to step smoothly into the role.  At the same time, he’s leaving Tableau, a company he helped transform from a desktop software company into one firmly based in the cloud.

Salesforce bought Tableau in June 2019 for a cool $15.7 billion and Selipsky has remained at the helm since then, but perhaps the lure of running AWS was too great and he decided to take the leap to the new job.

When we wrote a story at the end of last year about Salesforce’s deep bench of executive talent, Selipsky was one of the CEOs we pointed at as a possible replacement should CEO and chairman Marc Benioff step down. But with it looking more like president and COO Bret Taylor would be the heir apparent, perhaps Selipsky was ready for a new challenge.

Selipsky will make his return to AWS on May 17th and spend a few weeks with Jassy in a transitional time before taking over the division to run on his own. As Jassy slides into the Amazon CEO role, it’s clear the two will continue to work closely together, just as they did for over a decade.

Mar
22
2021
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Google Cloud hires Intel veteran to head its custom chip efforts

There has been a growing industry trend in recent years for large-scale companies to build their own chips. As part of that, Google announced today that it has hired long-time Intel executive Uri Frank as vice president to run its custom chip division.

“The future of cloud infrastructure is bright, and it’s changing fast. As we continue to work to meet computing demands from around the world, today we are thrilled to welcome Uri Frank as our VP of Engineering for server chip design,” Amin Vahdat, Google Fellow and VP of systems infrastructure wrote in a blog post announcing the hire.

With Frank, Google gets an experienced chip industry executive, who spent more than two decades at Intel rising from engineering roles to corporate vice president at the Design Engineering Group, his final role before leaving the company earlier this month.

Frank will lead the custom chip division in Israel as part of Google. As he said in his announcement on LinkedIn, this was a big step to join a company with a long history of building custom silicon.

“Google has designed and built some of the world’s largest and most efficient computing systems. For a long time, custom chips have been an important part of this strategy. I look forward to growing a team here in Israel while accelerating Google Cloud’s innovations in compute infrastructure,” Frank wrote.

Google’s history of building its own chips dates back to 2015 when it launched the first TensorFlow chips. It moved into video processing chips in 2018 and added OpenTitan , an open-source chip with a security angle in 2019.

Frank’s job will be to continue to build on this previous experience to work with customers and partners to build new custom chip architectures. The company wants to move away from buying motherboard components from different vendors to building its own “system on a chip” or SoC, which it says will be drastically more efficient.

“Instead of integrating components on a motherboard where they are separated by inches of wires, we are turning to “Systems on Chip” (SoC) designs where multiple functions sit on the same chip, or on multiple chips inside one package. In other words, the SoC is the new motherboard,” Vahdat wrote.

While Google was early to the “Build Your Own Chip” movement, we’ve seen other large scale companies like Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft begin building their own custom chips in recent years to meet each company’s unique needs and give more precise control over the relationship between the hardware and software.

It will be Frank’s job to lead Google’s custom chip unit and help bring it to the next level.

Mar
12
2021
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Assembled, an operating system for support teams, raises $16.6M

From the point of view of a consumer, customer service sometimes feels like a monolith, but behind the scenes it can be a very fragmented business, with dozens of companies providing various different tools to help agents do their jobs.

Today, a startup founded by three Stripe alums that has set out to build a platform that helps organizations manage that spaghetti of customer service IT, and use it more efficiently, is announcing a round of funding to continue growing its business.

Assembled, which has built a platform that it describes as the “operating system” for support teams, has raised $16.6 million, a Series A that it plans to use to continue expanding its team and platform, and to bring on more customers.

The round is being led by Emergence Capital, the VC that specializes in enterprise startups, backing other communications-centric companies in its time like Salesforce, Zoom, Yammer, ServiceMax, SalesLoft and Lithium. Stripe, Basis Set Ventures and Felicis Ventures also participated. Stripe has a strong connection to Assembled. It is a customer. It led Assembled’s $3.1 million seed round a year ago.

And, it was the company where the three co-founders met and built the earliest version of the product it offers today. CEO Brian Sze was one of the first employees, overseeing business operations, where he built the customer support platform that inspired him to eventually leave to found Assembled. His two co-founders, brothers Ryan and John Wang, were engineers at the payments and financial services behemoth.

Assembled’s current platform is priced in tiers starting at $15 per agent per month. Integrating with Salesforce, Zendesk, Intercom, Kustomer, Gladly and other services by way of API integrations, it provides not just a way to manage and view customer support data from different sources in one place, but alongside that it provides tools focused on the support teams themselves. This includes tools to manage and roster teams, analyze team performance, and forecast demand depending on different factors in order to be better prepared.

As with all other aspects of how organizations work, customer service and people management are being digitally transformed. Typically, Sze said that many companies still use spreadsheets to manage and plan customer support rosters. That is now gradually shifting into what he describes as “support ops” where a strategic person is tasked not just with handling what is happening with incoming customer support right now, but also needs to figure out what will happen in the next year, and the tools that might help cope with that. “That is our emergent buyer,” Sze said.

“The sheer number of channels being supported is much bigger, when you consider email, messaging, phone lines, social media and more,” said Sze, adding that the pandemic had a particularly strong effect on Assembled’s business. It saw a big bump in especially in Q3 of last year, when its customer base doubled. “I think it came down to support being one of the most critical teams at the organization.”

Assembled today has a number of tech companies, and tech-first consumer companies as customers, including Stripe, GoFundMe, challenger bank Monzo, Google-owned Looker, D2C clothing brand Everlane and Harrys. It has grown customers five-fold in the last year, said Sze, while revenues have grown 300% (absolute numbers for both were not disclosed).

The concept of an “operating system” for customer support makes a lot of sense when you think about how the role has evolved over the years.

In the decades before the internet and digital interactions became the norm, support either focused on in-person visits, or phone-based interactions where you might find yourself calling toll-free numbers, sitting on hold for a long time, maybe being shuffled from one person to another depending on the nature of your issue.

Over time, those systems picked up some automated responses and companies started getting better systems in place to triage those calls. Then, as marketing became “marketing tech” and sales took on a software life of its own, those customer support people started to pick up more responsibilities, not just listening to customers but turning around and offering to sell them things, too, or take stock of customer satisfaction and overall sentiment. Then more channels for connecting came with the internet. Then came more efficient tools, cloud-based services, mobile services, and more to handle all of the above, and so on.

All of these iterations often came with different pieces of software, and while some companies have set out to build one-stop shops to take everything on, Assembled takes a Slack-like approach, making it easy to bring in data and manage different tools from one place, providing a place to bring them all together to help them work more harmoniously. At the same time, it provides a way to manage the teams of people who are there to work with those pieces of software. This is because, when it comes to customer support, it’s always as much about the teams running it as it is the software they are using (hence: “assmebled”).

The company’s approach has been especially relevant in the last year. Not only have teams — including customer service teams — been forced to work remotely, but they have generally seen a surge of traffic from customers who are going online for all of their services, and using digital tools when they need to get in touch with organizations. Still, the opportunity for Assembled is that by and large, there are still a large proportion of businesses that are still playing catch up here.

“Today’s customer support teams operate in a dynamic, increasingly remote environment vastly different from that of a decade ago,” said Jake Saper, Emergence General Partner, in a statement. “But it’s shocking to learn how many support teams are still operating out of spreadsheets. At Emergence, we believe that Support Ops will become a critical complement to support teams, much like DevOps has become for developers. Having initially built their product to manage Stripe’s support function, we believe the Assembled team is the world’s best to build the core operating platform for Support Ops.”

Valuation is not being disclosed.


Early Stage is the premier ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion. Use code “TCARTICLE at checkout to get 20 percent off tickets right here.

Mar
10
2021
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Could Marc Benioff be the next CEO to move to executive chairman?

Last month Jeff Bezos announced he would step down as CEO of Amazon later this year, moving into the executive chairman role, while passing the baton to AWS CEO Andy Jassy. Could Marc Benioff, co-founder, chairman and CEO at Salesforce be the next big-name executive to make a similar move?

A Reuter’s story published on Monday suggested that could be the case. Citing unnamed sources, the story indicated that Benioff’s CEO exit could happen this year. Further those same sources suggested that current Salesforce president and COO Bret Taylor is the likely heir apparent.

We wrote a story at the end of last year speculating on possible successors to Benioff, were he to step away from the CEO role. There were a number of worthy candidates, several of whom, like Taylor, came to the company via an acquisition. All the same, we thought that Taylor seemed to be the most likely candidate to replace Benioff.

We asked Salesforce for a comment on the Reuter’s story. A company spokesperson told us that the company doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.

While the entire scenario fits firmly in the rumor and speculation column, it is not entirely unlikely either. What would it mean if Benioff stepped away and what if Taylor was truly the next in line? And how would that swap compare with the Bezos decision were it to happen?

Similar yet different

Salesforce and Amazon are both companies founded in the 1990s, each looking to shake up its industry.

For Amazon, it was changing the way goods (starting with books) were bought and sold. And for Benioff the goal was changing the way software was sold. Bezos famously founded his company in his garage. Benioff built his in a rented apartment. From these humble beginnings both have built iconic companies and accumulated enormous wealth. You could understand why either could be ready to step away from the daily grind of running a company after all these years.

Bezos announced that veteran executive Andy Jassy, who runs the company’s cloud arm, would be his replacement when the handoff comes. Jassy knows the organization’s priority mix as he’s been working at the company for more than two decades. He’s locked into the culture and helped take AWS from idea to $50 billion juggernaut.

While Benioff hasn’t made any actual firm pronouncement, we have seen Bret Taylor — who joined the company in 2016 when Salesforce purchased his startup Quip for $750 million — move quickly up the ladder.

Laurie McCabe, co-founder and analyst at SMB Group, who has been following Salesforce since its earliest days, says that if Benioff were to leave, he would obviously leave big shoes to fill. But she agreed that everything seems to point to Taylor as his successor should that happen.

“Salesforce has been grooming Taylor for awhile. He has some stellar credentials both at Salesforce, his own start-up, Quip, that Salesforce acquired, and at Facebook. There’s no doubt in my mind he can lead Salesforce forward, but he’ll bring a different more low-key style to the role. And I’m sure Benioff will stay very involved […],” McCabe said.

Two different situations

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that while he believes Taylor could be chosen as Benioff’s successor, and would be qualified to lead the company, he’s taken a very different path from Jassy.

“I think Benioff moving on could be different from Bezos in the sense that Jassy has been at Amazon for over 20 years and was there to basically see and be part of most of the story. […] But if Taylor were to succeed Benioff there’s not as much [history] at Salesforce with him not being on board until the Quip acquisition in 2016,” Leary said.

Leary wonders if this relatively short history with the company could create some political friction in the organization if he were chosen to succeed Benioff. “I’m not saying that this would happen, but choosing one of the many possible heirs that have come via a number of high profile acquisitions could possibly lead to high level turnover from those not picked to succeed Benioff,” he said.

But Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research says that if you look at the range of candidates available, he believes that Taylor would be the best choice. “I don’t expect any issue because there is no one with a similar or even better background, which is when there are problems — that or when people are in an open competition as it used to be at GE,” he said.

We don’t know for sure what the final outcome will be, but if Benioff does decide to join Bezos and takes the executive chairman mantle at the company, it makes sense that the person to replace him will be Taylor. But for now, it remains in the realm of speculation, and we’ll just to wait and see if that’s what comes to pass.


Early Stage is the premier ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion. Use code “TCARTICLE at checkout to get 20 percent off tickets right here.

Mar
04
2021
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Papaya Global raises $100M more at a $1B+ valuation for tools to hire, pay and manage distributed workforces

Remote working — hiring people further afield and letting people work outside of a central physical office — is looking like it will be here to stay, and today one of the startups building tools for that environment is announcing a big fundraise in response to the opportunity.

Papaya Global, an Israeli startup that provides cloud-based payroll and hiring, onboarding and compliance services across 140 countries for organizations that employ full-time, part-time and contract workers outside of their home country, has picked up $100 million in funding and has confirmed that its valuation is now over $1 billion.

The company targets organizations that not only have global workforces, but are expanding their employee bases quickly. They include fast-growing startups like OneTrust, nCino and Hopin (which today announced a monster $400 million round), as well as major corporates like Toyota, Microsoft, Wix and General Dynamics.

Papaya is not disclosing revenue numbers but said that sales have grown 300% year-over-year for each of the last three years.

Led by Greenoaks Capital Partners, this Series C also includes significant participation from IVP Ventures and Alkeon Capital. Previous backers Insight Venture Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Dynamic Loop, New Era and Workday Ventures, Access Ventures and Group 11 also chipped in. The new investment brings Papaya’s total funding to $190 million.

Papaya has been on a fundraising tear in the last 18 months. Today’s news comes less than six months after it raised a $40 million Series B. And that round came less than a year after a $45 million Series A.

Why so much, so quickly? Partly because of the demands on the business, but possibly also to capitalize on an opportunity at a time when so many others are also going after it as well.

The opportunity is that companies and other organizations are finding themselves needing tools to address the current state of play: Workforce growth today doesn’t look like it did in 2019, and so incumbent solutions like ADP, or cobbled together solutions covering multiple geographies, either don’t cut it, or are too costly to maintain.

Papaya Global, in contrast, says it has built an AI-based platform that automates a lot of work and removes much of the manual activity that comes out of trying to right-size a lot of legacy payroll products to work in new paradigms.

“The major impact of COVID-19 for us has been changing attitudes,” CEO Eynat Guez, who co-founded the company with Ruben Drong and Ofer Herman, told me in an interview last September. “People usually think that payroll works by itself, but it’s one of the more complex parts of the organization, covering major areas like labor, accounting, tax. Eight months ago, a lot of clients thought, it just happens. But now they realize they didn’t have control of the data, some don’t even have a handle on who is being paid.”

One challenge, however, is that many others are also chasing these customers in hopes of becoming the ADP of distributed and global work.

Last month, a startup called Oyster, also aimed at distributed workforces, raised $20 million. Others in the same area that have raised lots of capital include Turing,  DeelRemoteHibob, Personio, Factorial, Lattice, Turing and Rippling.

And as we have pointed out before, these are just some of the HR startups that have raised money in the last year. There are many, many more.

Investors here are hoping that as we see some consolidation emerge out of this mix, there will be a few leaders and that Papaya will be one of them.

“Papaya Global has built a best in class solution to onboard new employees, automate payroll, and manage a global workforce through a single pane of glass. Both growing and established companies have dramatically changed their working practices in recent years, and Papaya has seen impressive growth as a result. We’re excited to continue supporting them as they seek to simplify an increasingly complex challenge for some of the world’s biggest companies,” said Patrick Backhouse, partner at Greenoaks Capital, in a statement.


Early Stage is the premier “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product-market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion.


Feb
27
2021
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Storm Ventures promotes Pascale Diaine and Frederik Groce to partners

Storm Ventures, a venture firm that focuses on early stage B2B enterprise startups, announced this week that it has promoted Pascale Diaine and Frederik Groce to partners at the firm.

The two new partners have worked their way up over the last several years. Groce joined Storm in 2016 and has invested in enterprise SaaS startups like Workato, Splashtop, NextRequest and Camino. Diaine joined a year later and has invested in firms like Sendoso, German Bionic, InEvent and Talkdesk.

Groce, who is also a founder at BLCK VC and helped organize the Black Venture Institute to create a network of Black investors, says that these promotions show that venture needs to be more diverse, and Storm recognizes this.  “If you think about the way our team works, that’s the way I think venture teams will need to work to be able to be successful in the next 40 years. And so the hope is that over time everyone does this and we’re just early to it,” Groce told me.

Unfortunately, right now that’s not the case, not even close. According to research by Crunchbase, just 12% of venture capitalists are women and two-thirds of firms don’t have any female investors. Meanwhile, only about 4% of ventures investors are Black.

Those numbers have an impact on the number of Black and female founders because as Groce points out the lack of founders in underrepresented groups is in part a networking problem. “In a business that’s predicated on networks if you don’t have diversity in the network, or the teams that are driving those networks, you just can’t make sure you’re seeing great talent across all ecosystems,” he said.

Diaine, who is French and started her career by founding Orange Fab, the corporate accelerator of the European Telco Orange, has brought her international business background to Storm where they helped her tune that experience to an investor focus and supported her as she learned the nuances of the investment side of the business.

“I don’t come from the VC world. I come from the innovative corporate world. So they had to train me and spend time getting me up to date. And they did spend so much time making sure I understood everything to make sure I got to this level,” she said.

Both partners bring their own unique views looking beyond Silicon Valley for investment opportunities. Diaine’s investment include a German, Brazilian and Portuguese company, while Groce’s investments include companies in Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle.

The two partners have also developed an algorithm to help find investments based on a number of online signals, something that has become more important during the pandemic when they couldn’t network in person.

“Frederik and I have been working on [an algorithm to find] what are the signals that you can identify online that will tell you this company’s doing well, this company growing.You have to have a nice set of startup search tracking [signals], but what do you track if you can’t just get the revenue in real time, which is impossible. So we’ve developed an algorithm that helps us identify some of these signals and create alerts on which startups we should pay attention to,” Diaine explained.

She says this data-driven approach should be helpful and augment their in-person efforts even after the pandemic is over and increase their overall efficiency in finding and tracking companies in their portfolios.

 

Feb
18
2021
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Anthony Lin named permanent managing director and head of Intel Capital

When Wendell Brooks stepped down as managing partner and head of Intel Capital last August, Anthony Lin was named to replace him on an interim basis. At the time, it wasn’t clear if he would be given the role permanently, but today, six months later, the answer is known.

In a letter to the firm’s portfolio CEOs published on the company website, Lin mentioned, almost casually that he had taken on the two roles on a permanent basis. “Personally, I want to share that I have been appointed to managing partner and head of Intel Capital. I have been a member of the investment committee for the past several years and am humbly awed by the talent of our entrepreneurs and our team,” he wrote.

Lin takes over in a time of turmoil for Intel as the company struggles to regain its place in the semiconductor business that it dominated for decades. Meanwhile, Intel itself has a new CEO with Pat Gelsinger returning in January from VMware to lead the organization.

As the corporate investment arm of Intel, it looks for companies that can help the parent company understand where to invest resources in the future. If that is its goal, perhaps it hasn’t done a great job as Intel has lost some of its edge when it comes to innovation.

Lin, who was formerly head of mergers and acquisitions and international investing at the firm, can use the power of the firm’s investment dollars to try help point the parent company in the right direction and help find new ways to build innovative solutions on the Intel platform.

Lin acknowledged how challenging 2020 was for everyone, and his company was no exception, but the firm invested in 75 startups including 35 new deals and 40 deals involving companies it had previously invested in. It  has also made a commitment to invest in companies with more diverse founders. To that end, 30% of new venture stage dollars went to startups led by diverse leaders, according to Lin.

What’s more, the company made a five year commitment that 15% of all of its deals would go to companies with Black founders. It made some progress towards that goal, but there is still a ways to go. “At the end of 2020, 9% of our new venture deals and 15% of our venture dollars committed were in companies led by Black founders. We know there is more progress to be made and we will continue to encourage, foster and invest in diverse and inclusive teams,” he wrote.

Lin faces a big challenge ahead as he takes over a role that had the same leader for the first 28 years in Arvind Sodhani. His predecessor, Brooks, was there for five years. Now it passes to Lin and he needs to use the firm’s investment might to help Gelsinger advance the goals of the broader firm, while making sound investments.

Feb
09
2021
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Is overseeing cloud operations the new career path to CEO?

When Amazon announced last week that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos planned to step back from overseeing operations and shift into an executive chairman role, it also revealed that AWS CEO Andy Jassy, head of the company’s profitable cloud division, would replace him.

As Bessemer partner Byron Deeter pointed out on Twitter, Jassy’s promotion was similar to Satya Nadella’s ascent at Microsoft: in 2014, he moved from executive VP in charge of Azure to the chief exec’s office. Similarly, Arvind Krishna, who was promoted to replace Ginni Rometti as IBM CEO last year, also was formerly head of the company’s cloud business.

Could Nadella’s successful rise serve as a blueprint for Amazon as it makes a similar transition? While there are major differences in the missions of these companies, it’s inevitable that we will compare these two executives based on their former jobs. It’s true that they have an awful lot in common, but there are some stark differences, too.

Replacing a legend

For starters, Jassy is taking over for someone who founded one of the world’s biggest corporations. Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer, who had taken over for the company’s face, Bill Gates. Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says this notable difference could have a huge impact for Jassy with his founder boss still looking over his shoulder.

“There’s a lot of similarity in the two situations, but Satya was a little removed from the founder Gates. Bezos will always hover and be there, whereas Gates (and Ballmer) had retired for good. [ … ] It was clear [they] would not be coming back. [ … ] For Jassy, the owner could [conceivably] come back anytime,” Mueller said.

But Andrew Bartels, an analyst at Forrester Research, says it’s not a coincidence that both leaders were plucked from the cloud divisions of their respective companies, even if it was seven years apart.

“In both cases, these hyperscale business units of Microsoft and Amazon were the fastest-growing and best-performing units of the companies. [ … ] In both cases, cloud infrastructure was seen as a platform on top of which and around which other cloud offerings could be developed,” Bartels said. The companies both believe that the leaders of these two growth engines were best suited to lead the company into the future.

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